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Copyright 2011 Douglas T. Vale

Cover image courtesy of Drx /

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Jesse knew her fear didn’t make sense. Towards dusk, after she got home from school, she would rush to her window, press her hands into the windowsill, and watch. The town beyond was mostly sunk in a flat valley, and she occupied a house with her father up on the hills close to the outer edge. There weren’t any more houses or streets up behind theirs. Just hills and long grass and rocks. Jesse sometimes imagined there were cheetahs or bears or tigers just over the ridge. Her imagination proved too strong to let her actually go up to the crest of the hill and check. Even during the day.

The hills were by turns smooth and sculpted, as from glacial movements in the distant past, or sharp and craggy. Though a river ran through the town the hills around it were covered in dry, yellow grasses and similar desert-worthy shrub. Jesse had always been amused that there was a river, and also a dam, in an area supposed to be desert. A giant bridge crossed the river in front of the dam, and across the river an airfield shimmered in the sun. More distant even than the airfield were the mountains visible on clear days. In one corner of the sky you could see Mt. Hume, in another Mt. St. Jarvis, and in yet another Mt. Jailer. Beyond the mountains the sky blurred everything else and hid it from view. Jesse surveyed all this, anchoring herself to the bridge, the dam, the airfield, the mountains, and the rest as darkness swallowed it all. She pushed her black hair away from her eyes before collapsing on her bed. She always feared the sun would never rise again. Each dusk might be her last. After she'd sat on her bed a while, she'd go to the window again and look out. When the moon hung in the sky, she felt comforted. But when the moon turned black, her night went badly.

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